Often referred to as “good” or “healthy” fats, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats feature unsaturated carbon bonds known as double bonds within their chemical structure. Fat molecules that contain just one double bond are called monounsaturated fats, while polyunsaturated fats contain multiples of these bonds.
Eaten in moderation, both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats provide a variety of health benefits. Found in many nutrient-packed foods, they are a great substitute for saturated and trans fats.
A growing body of research suggests that it is not necessary or advisable to avoid fat altogether. Instead, a healthy diet should contain moderate amounts of both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat.
Why You Need Goods Fats
Unsaturated fats play a key role in maintaining low levels of both total and “bad” LDL cholesterol. They also help the body absorb fat-soluble vitamins. Without these fats, a diet high in vitamins may not live up to its potential for delivering health benefits.
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are necessary for the optimal functioning of many body systems, such as:
Polyunsaturated fats are rich in omega-3 and omega-6 essential fatty acids. The human body does not produce omega-3 and omega-6, so they can only be obtained through healthy foods. Omega-3 is believed to play an important role in maintaining cognitive function. It also impacts serotonin levels and may affect mental health as a result.
The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in foods with unsaturated fats promote heart health by reducing both cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
Research suggests that the omega-3 fatty acids in unsaturated fats protect the eyes from conditions such as glaucoma. Additional studies indicate that people who eat high levels of polyunsaturated fatty acids find relief from dry eye syndrome.
Foods with Good Fats
A variety of foods are rich in polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. This makes it easy to get your daily requirement. These seven foods are among the best sources of unsaturated fats:
1. Olive Oil
A single tablespoon of olive oil contains 73% of the recommended daily value of monounsaturated fat in the form of oleic acid. Extra virgin olive oil is also an excellent source of antioxidants.
2. Canola Oil
Canola oil is rich in both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fat. A single tablespoon delivers nearly 9 grams of monounsaturated fat, as well as a respectable 4 grams of polyunsaturated fat. Affordable and versatile, canola oil can be used while cooking and is found in many dressings and marinades.
Several types of nuts contain significant amounts of unsaturated fats, but walnuts remain one of the best sources. The polyunsaturated fats in walnuts offer many benefits, including, according to one study, reduced fasting insulin levels among adults with type II diabetes.
While many types of fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, sardines are especially rich in monounsaturated fat, with a single drained can including 4 grams. A can of drained sardines also has 1.5 grams of polyunsaturated fats.
5. Flax Seeds
Flax seeds may be known for their high fiber content, but they are also a great source of healthy fats, with a 3-tablespoon serving containing 7 grams of polyunsaturated and 2.5 grams of monounsaturated fat. They can be enjoyed as an extra source of fiber in smoothies or as a substitute for eggs when baking.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
The ultimate snacking food, pumpkin seeds are rich in unsaturated fat but also have plenty of fiber and protein. One cup of pumpkin seeds with the shells includes over 7 grams of monounsaturated fat and a whopping 9 grams of polyunsaturated fat.
Enjoyed in guacamole or on toast, avocado is one of the healthiest party foods. Just one slice contains 1 gram of monounsaturated fat. Avocado also includes a small amount of polyunsaturated fat. Furthermore, it is packed with folate, vitamin C, and vitamin E. It offers a healthy option for snacking or indulging in food cravings.